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Living with a depressed person sucks. I feel sorry for my wife. She’s awesome and patient and unwavering in her belief that things will get better. But the poor girl has to live with me, and that’s got to be a bummer.
That’s why I devoted so much time to ‘The Beginner’s Guide to Living with Someone with Depression.’ I know it’s not easy to live with someone who struggles with mental illness, so I wanted to give everyone who reads Sad Runner a fighting chance to make it through.
Fighting depression is the toughest item on my todo list. The battle I have with my mental illness is one that leaves little room for anything else. Work, friends, family, indeed fun all take a back seat to the pain I feel inside.
My depression goes in waves, so thankfully I’m able to get relief some weeks, but when the depression comes back it makes up for lost time. The agony I feel when these waves of despair crash over me are beyond words. I try hard to describe as much of it as possible, but depression is so profoundly crippling and destructive that I am running short on ways to describe it.
On any given week depression will force me face down on the couch for hours if I’m lucky. Other times I’m curled up on the kitchen floor, shaking in pain. I can’t even find the energy to make it to a comfy bed. I just fall to the floor and wait for it to pass enough for me to get somewhere better. Even if I make it to bed, there’s no comfort for me. Imagine feeling so uncomfortable, so raw that even the nicest sheets on the cushiest bed feel like nails digging into your soul.
I do everything I can to pass out; I just want to get away from all the sorrow. But, when I fall asleep, I’m greeted by nightmares and visions of my suicide.
The nightmares are the ultimate kick in the crotch while you’re down. When I’m awake, I’m trying to stay alive while avoiding the suicidal thoughts that smack me in the face. So, for relief, I sleep only to fall into a hole where the visions I’ve avoided now chase me around. I can’t get away. Awake I’m screwed, asleep I’m tormented.
Then there’s the destruction. The pain from the depression evolves into anxious energy. I have trouble describing what it’s like to have this happen. The only thing that comes close is The Incredible Hulk.
Like Bruce Banner, I resent the destruction and the pain I inflict. I find myself coming out of these episodes exhausted and asking, like Bruce, ‘Did I hurt anyone?’
The anxious energy consumes me. I fight hard to keep it deep down inside. I feel the anger, that familiar rage bubbling up. I push it down, but it keeps coming back harder. I feel the destructive tension build; it makes it’s way to the outermost points of my body. No longer deep inside, it’s making it’s way to my skin. I feel my hairs stand on end; the rage is coming. It’s almost out.
I desperately force it back down inside me. Ironically, I long for the previous hour when it was just suicidal thoughts I was fighting. I grab something I can hold onto tightly. The arm of the couch, a pillow, something I can dig my nails into and release a bit of this anger without it getting all the way out.
For what feels like hours, I convulse, fighting the depression and the rage at the same time. My hands are red and sore from gripping so tight; my back hurts from all the shaking and the uncomfortable positions I’m in. I feel my fingernails tingle from digging into whatever I was grabbing at the moment. I close my eyes tightly hoping that this subsides soon. But the rage isn’t going anywhere; it’s coming at me even harder now.
‘No, please no,’ I pray, ‘I don’t want to hurt anybody or break anything this time.’
If I’m lucky, I’m alone or with my wife. I hurt fewer people that way. Sadly there are times when a co-worker or friend will make their way into my cross-hairs. The rage, already bubbling inside of me because of the depression anxiety, gets set off by someone. They’ll say something or do something that just lights the match, and that fire starts up. Then, like a seasoned predator, a tiger waiting to pounce and kill, my rage releases and goes right to that person.
I tear them down; I use my vocabulary, my choice of words to rip them into pieces and make them feel as though they are nothing. My rage wants to destroy and make everyone feel as horrible as I do. I find myself sitting outside the conversation watching the whole thing go down; I cringe at how Evil Me picks its target apart so quickly and with no effort. My co-worker, my friend, stopped being a person awhile ago, to my rage they’re the next victim it needs to snuff out.
That’s one of the many reasons I go into hiding when things get bad. First, we know depression makes us isolate, so that’s part of it. But the other reason is that I’m trying to limit the pain I inflict. If you’re not around when this goes down, then I can’t hurt you. So I go away. I stay offline, I don’t check my phone, I skip work conversations all to avoid the opportunity for someone to strike a match and set this rage on fire. I’m trying to reduce the casualties, the poor unsuspecting victims of my jacked up psyche.
I’ve ‘successfully’ isolated most days, but the rage still wants blood. As if my life, career, and dreams weren’t enough, the anger still needs someone or something to destroy.
It searches for a victim. A chair, an appliance, something it can ruin.
‘Please, no!’ I think to myself.
But I know what’s going to happen. I’ve been here before. I know that I have a few minutes where the rage will subside, it will be all depression for a bit. I’ll cry and shake, but at least it isn’t rage. But then the anger comes back as if it went out to its car to get a baseball bat; it comes bursting through my door. It barely left, and yet it came back with a vengeance.
I see today’s victim, a cheap Ikea chair that I can replace. It will still cost me money, but at least it won’t be more than $20 or so this time. Still, though I know what’s coming, I try desperately to avoid it.
‘No,’ I cry, I pray, I plead.
My mind already goes to the embarrassment I’ll feel later in the day when I have to admit to my wife that we have one less item in the house, and it’s because I broke it like a pissy toddler.
Oh man, it’s coming.
‘No, please, no, just the depression,’ I pray. But it’s too late. My rage knows the victim now and has the plan to kill it.
I try to release the anger even more now while still preserving today’s target. I choose to punch the wall instead. I hope that the pain from my fists will stifle the rage and allow the chair to survive.
I slam my fists into the wall. The rage inside me meets the pain of the impact, the sting when wood and metal collide with skin and bone. My knuckles begin to shred with each blow to the wall.
It isn’t enough.
‘Crap, it’s still coming.’ I think to myself.
And then, he appears the Incredible Hulk, the Evil Me, that destructive, angry, vindictive asshole, that sub-human being intent on making its victim feel as bad as he does.
The rage has now consumed me. I cannot recognize Adam anymore. Looking in the mirror does no good, he’s not here. It’s just the Hulk.
Depression Hulk grabs the chair; it’s happened so many times, we all know what’s in store. He’ll rip it in half, and break it apart until there is nothing left.
Oh crap, this time, it’s different.
‘No, not the wall too!’
Suddenly, Depression Hulk slams the chair across the wall of the kitchen, breaking it into pieces and crushing the drywall at the same time. He didn’t just destroy the furniture, this time; he hurt the house. Splinters from the ruined chair fly everywhere, drywall dust covers the floor.
Now, breathing again, I panic.
‘What have I done?’
I picture Kristen’s face when she sees what happened. She’ll swallow whatever emotions she has to try and keep me from going further over the edge. But she must hate it when things break around here. She must get angry too. She must feel upset for our dog, as I do, who had to hide in the other room afraid of Dad and his yelling and his throwing of things and punching and breaking of furniture.
I hate Depression Hulk more than I hate the depression itself. The depression hurts me and destroys me from the inside out. But Depression Hulk looks to harm anyone or anything in its way.
These episodes happen all too often. Sure it comes in waves, I have good weeks and bad weeks, but I don’t want any weeks where I break things or yell or cry out in pain. It hurts too much, and I’m ashamed of the destruction.
Even more than my wife’s patience and her amazing ability to forgive me when Depression Hulk breaks stuff is her profound refusal to give up hope. That stubbornness from her has kept us both going strong through this whole ordeal. I’m thankful she has that dogged determination. She fights to see me improve. She refuses to doubt God in all this pain, and she is a perfect example of what it means to keep moving forward.
We must never give up hope. Even if we don’t see a possibility where things will get better, we have to lie to ourselves, do whatever we can to fake that hope because it’s vital to our survival. We must nurture the faith and foster its growth.
Hope is why I’m still going. Hope is how I can look at the photo of my destroyed furniture or see the look on my wife’s face when she finds out what I did and still get up the next day.
I hope today is better than yesterday, and I hope tomorrow is even better than today. But, even if it isn’t, and Depression Hulk shows up again, I’ll keep fighting, and I’ll keep moving forward. It will look ugly, it’s going to get costly with all the furniture getting busted, but this isn’t over.
You must keep going. Refuse to give up hope. Take a moment and commit to hanging on to it. Just like a dear friend you refuse to let slip away, grab that hope and hold on to it tightly. Some days it’s all you have, and you’re thankful it’s there.
Living with a depressed person isn’t easy, but it isn’t forever. We can get better; we can have lives of purpose despite our illness.
I had a bad day, and Depression Hulk smashed some stuff. But I’m still here. I’m still breathing; I’m still loved, I still have a purpose. Depression Hulk can’t take that from me, and your depression can’t take it from you either.
Hang on to that today and don’t let it go. Keep fighting; you’re going to get better. You must believe it. Find something to give you hope today. It may be this post; it may just be a friend’s smile. Just find something today and hold onto it.
You’re going to get better. I believe that.